It is only been extremely recently, and outside of my career context, that anyone has ever told me that my thoughts and ideas are valid and valuable, that my creativity and ways of thinking about building systems that minimize risk of error and maximize opportunity for efficiency and accuracy are actionable. Most of the feedback I have received in my life has sounded more like “that’s cool, but we can’t do that for XYZ reason,” or “we just don’t work like that,” or “here are the reasons you are wrong…” I am beginning to understand that the ACTUAL reasons we can’t do things or we don’t work like that or why I am perceived as “wrong” are primarily rooted in others’ lack of creativity, need for control or ego-based power structures that are not designed to accommodate the “always be improving” mindset.
So, in order for me to experience success, I had to doubt my own inherent wisdom, my own skills, my own genius, if you will, in order to limit my engagement with my employer to the ways that those with control over my career are able to see that I can follow directions, do what I’m told, in the way they tell me. Even if they say they are looking for ideas for improvement, they want those ideas within certain constraints that are widely understood by most people, but unspoken and inarticulatable. With these wholly unspoken constraints and the lack of real, authentic interest in change/improvement except on a scale that retains the hierarchy and everyone’s comfort level, I am forced to keep myself small, to not make waves, to absolutely avoid sharing my gifts or my genius, even in exchange for compensation via my employment situation. I try to copy what others do to be successful, which is inauthentic and comes across as me being fake. My heart is no longer in it. I can no long feign being personally invested in acting like I couldn’t improve the system if not for the powers that be being completely disinterested in doing what they say they want to be doing, which is actually embracing change and being more efficient.
My whole life, I have considered mimicry to be one of my greatest talents. I can convincingly fake my way through most conversations, whether it is about cars or sports or world events, or even fashion (in a pinch). I will admit I used to be even better at mimicry than I am now and I had an epiphany about why that is just the other day… I have used my skill at mimicry to fake presenting myself as LESS gifted than I actually am in order to make other people comfortable with my participation in their social rituals. Because I am #ActuallyAutistic, I feel energy in a room, and I have been conditioned to want to reach out and connect to others. Those others rarely want to talk about what I would prefer to talk about, which is almost literally anything IN DEPTH and WITH PASSION. I have interests like that, that I engage in EXTREMELY DEEPLY, and most other people do not have (or do not want to share) those passions with strangers. This is why small talk generally has NO interest for autistic people, whatsoever.
My interest in other people and connecting with them has limited my ability or interest or desire to share the things I am passionate about because, every time I do slip up, I am reprimanded, told this isn’t the correct place/time, that those topics don’t belong or that I “need to work on my communication skills.” These are all subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways for neurotypical people and the systems they build to enforce behavior that keeps their structure and their worldview safe. They want to prevent passion from entering the workplace, unless the passion is how to make more money for the company. But isn’t time/efficiency positively correlated with money? How are personal ego, hierarchical power and structural stagnation correlated with money?
Anyway, I have veered off-topic. My point is, I have been told in a variety of contexts over the course of my life that my own instincts are not as valuable to society or the organizations I work within as are my ability to follow the rules,, memorize, copy, repeat and enforce the processes that are already in place. I could not disagree more. My genius, the gifts I have inherently to give to the world are creative, they are constructive, they are efficient and they challenge conventional wisdom. And they are not wrong. You just need to be able to hear me in order to take advantage of them.